Michael Reger ’98, ’99 M.B.A., began his path to CEO of Northern Oil & Gas Inc. at the age of 15 in Montana. Eligible for a driver’s license, Reger was looking forward to “the best summer” as a new driver. His father, who was the third generation of his family in the oil and gas business, had other plans for him.“Dad sent me to Glendive, a little town near the eastern border of the state, where I lived in a Super 8 for three months negotiating leases. At the time I thought it was the worst summer of my life, but it turned out to be the most important.” Reger learned how to break down legal descriptions and determine mineral rights ownership. By the end of the summer, he had leased more than 30,000 acres by himself. Reger chose St. Thomas for his undergraduate degree because he wanted to go to a good business school in a good business city within 1,000 miles of Billings, Mont. He first heard about St. Thomas from his next-door neighbors, who were originally from Minnesota, and who “shipped” their children to St. Thomas one by one as they graduated from high school.While he was an undergraduate student, Dr. Mary Daugherty, associate professor of finance, was his adviser. Reger was impressed with her approach to teaching. “She appreciated students’ strengths and encouraged them to use them,” he said. “Also, she accentuated the practical application of business, instead of overemphasizing the theoretical level.” In gratitude for his education at the Opus College of Business, and particularly for the part Daugherty played in his education, Reger recently gave more than 50,000 shares of Northern Oil to St. Thomas to fund the Mary Schmid Daugherty Commitment to Student Learning Scholarship. Reger continued his education at St. Thomas immediately after getting his undergraduate degree. While he was a senior, he decided he wanted to get an M.B.A. quickly before going back to work in the family business. He applied for admission to what was then called the “Day MBA program” at St. Thomas. Students were told they could finish the program in 18 months, but Reger finished in 15.He re-entered the oil industry at an exciting time. In late 1999, people were talking about how much oil was contained in the Bakken Formation in Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. Simultaneously, the price of oil began to rise. Within a few years, Reger began to think about starting his own company, building on the family’s business expertise.The three generations of his family that were active in the business before him were primarily lease brokers who would acquire large blocks of leases and then sell them to larger companies. Reger’s family owns the largest seismic database of the Williston Basin, which they used to acquire and market leases.In 2005, a company that purchased a block of leases from Reger’s family drilled the land and generated 80 percent of their company’s production from their Williston Basin purchase. It was then that Reger decided to take the business to the next level: exploration and production. The family’s database was a competitive advantage. Reger founded Northern Oil & Gas, and the company’s first well was drilled in early 2006. Reger keeps busy managing his company and acquiring leases, but in his spare time, both he and his wife enjoy big game hunting and fishing around the world. Vacations might find him anywhere from the Maldives to Montana.As a father, Reger appreciates even more all that his own father taught him and his two brothers. “It takes a lot of patience to teach kids the ropes. I can’t imagine how hemade the time for it, but by the time we could walk, we knew what he was doing. The business was our second language.” Reger will certainly pass down his own knowledge,as well as his love of the outdoors, to his children.
Northern Oil & Gas Inc.Northern Oil & Gas Inc. is a public gas and oil exploration and production company based in Wayzata. Most of its leases are in the Williston Basin of North Dakota and Montana, where the company is exploring the Bakken shale. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, this area is the largest oil reserve in the lower 48 states, containing 5 billion recoverable barrels of oil using currenttechnology.